By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
Something else weighs on his decision to divulge his secrets: his health. Daoud fears he's going to die soon. He suffers from hypertension, he says, and undergoes regular doses of an unproven and controversial alternative therapy to combat constricted arteries in his heart. Once a week he visits a clinic in Coconut Grove for a treatment called chelation therapy, which involves the removal of metal and minerals from the blood. (He emerges from the sessions smelling like patchouli.) His sister, brother, and father all died of heart problems; Daoud's siblings were both younger at their death than he is now. And his mother passed away from heart-related ailments. "I'm a time bomb," he says.
And there appears to be another motivation. It doesn't seem exactly coincidental that Daoud's willingness to go public occurs as news of the Operation Greenpalm corruption investigation breaks. As he has watched the scandal unfold, he has compared his own transgressions and punishment against the feds' current targets. His conclusion: He was cheated.
"Did Miller Dawkins get suspended?" he asks of the Miami city commissioner the day the criminal complaint was filed. (Dawkins is accused of demanding and receiving a city contract kickback and was suspended a day later.) "Son of a bitch! I was suspended immediately! I smell a real stink here. Something's not right."
He curses at the fact that at the time of then-city manager Cesar Odio's arrest, the president of the Cuban American National Foundation was already talking about raising $300,000 to $400,000 for Odio's defense fund. "Can you believe that?" rails Daoud, who paid for his own defense. The ex-mayor also notes that the black community immediately circled around Metro-Dade commissioner James Burke as the feds descended on him. "I can tell people this race thing is disgusting," Daoud spits contemptuously in reference to allegations that the Operation Greenpalm investigation is racially and ethnically motivated. "I guarantee to everyone that the U.S. Attorney is an equal opportunity prosecutor."
Daoud later posits that municipal-bond dealer Howard Gary, another subject of the probe, clearly received excellent legal advice. (Upon being implicated in the Miami City Hall scandal, Gary became a government witness to help implicate acquaintances and business associates.) "His lawyers said, 'Howard, your life's over as you know it,'" Daoud speculates. "I was stupid not to tell the truth from the very beginning."
Daoud had an opportunity to tell all back in 1993. In order to receive a reduced sentence for his crimes, Daoud became a federal informant. His cooperation helped nail Abel Holtz and another former associate, CenTrust Bank chairman David Paul. But Daoud says he refused to talk to federal investigators about certain people. "I wouldn't discuss [former Miami Beach city commissioner] Abe Resnick, I wouldn't discuss [former Miami Beach mayor] Harold Rosen, I wouldn't discuss Russell Galbut," he recalls. "But no one appreciated that. Did any of them come by my trial? Did any of them come to my mother's funeral? When I was facing fifteen years and getting my ass killed, where the hell were these people? Every day I didn't help the government by telling the truth about people was a day I had to serve in prison." Bruce Udolf, chief of the public integrity division of the U.S. Attorney's Office, would not confirm that Daoud was asked about these men, saying, "We never comment on issues discussed during the debriefing of cooperating individuals."
So what does he have to reveal now? The allegations spill out over the course of several conversations. They're often vague, and the statute of limitations has likely expired on most of them, but if true they depict a city in which illegal cash flowed freely and the public trust was abused with impunity. In addition, they describe a man who, by outward appearances, was virtuously civic-minded, but who in truth was morally and ethically reprehensible.
Daoud begins by admitting to all but one of the crimes alleged in the 41-count federal indictment handed down in 1991. The exception: accepting a $10,000 bribe from boxing promoter Gilberto "Willy" Martinez, who later pleaded guilty to drug charges. (Daoud still maintains that the payment was a legal fee he rightfully earned as the promoter's lawyer.) Among the government's allegations that Daoud now says are true:
*He received a total of $35,000 in payments from two companies controlled by CenTrust chairman David Paul. (After his trial, and in order to avoid a second trial, Daoud pleaded guilty to accepting one payment of $5000 from a CenTrust subsidiary.)
*He did in fact demand hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of free or discounted renovations to his Sunset Island home from contractors involved in millions of dollars in city-funded construction projects.
*He collected bribes in connection with his participation in the rescue of South Pointe Towers, a Miami Beach high-rise condo project on the verge of collapsing into bankruptcy in 1987. Daoud persuaded two banks, including Capital Bank, and some labor unions to save the project with new financing.
According to the federal indictment, Daoud's law firm, Galbut Galbut & Menin, allegedly received a check for "approximately $25,000" from the now-defunct law firm of Finley Kumble, which was representing South Pointe's developer. Daoud says he received about $14,000 of that money, even though he did no legal work on the deal. The payment, he asserts, was a bribe in return for political influence and upcoming favorable votes. At Daoud's trial Thomas Tew, Jr., an attorney with Finley Kumble, testified that the $25,000 was for "legal fees" and that he, not Daoud, suggested the payment because the mayor had worked hard to save the project. (Daoud was not convicted of the charge. "My opinion was he did a hell of a job,"Tew says. "Did Alex ever extort me? Hell no, he didn't extort me. Fact of the matter is the guy never leaned on me. It would've been easy for me to say [in court] that he put a little pressure on me. But he didn't."Tew wonders why Daoud is now saying he's guilty of a crime to which he once pleaded, and was found, not guilty. "That's close to mental illness," he contends.)